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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Kuzuhara Saves Match Point, Reaches Semifinals of Australian Open Junior Championships; Six Americans Advance to Round of 16 at Les Petits As; Texas Women, Tennessee Men Remain No. 1 in Latest ITA Coaches Poll

Top seed Bruno Kuzuhara knew going into his Australian Open boys quarterfinal match with No. 7 seed Edas Butvilas that he was in for a battle. Butvilas had beaten him last week in the semifinals of the ITF J1 in Traralgon by a score of 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, giving the Lithuanian confidence coming into the match, which was played on the 1573 Arena, one of Melbourne Park's show courts. But Kuzuhara turned the tables, saving a match point in the second set to post a 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 victory.

Butvilas was serving up 4-1 in the first set before Kuzuhara managed to settle in, too late to put any pressure on Butvilas, but in time to dig into the second set. Butvilas saved four break points in his first four service games in the second set, coming up with big serves when he needed them, while Kuzuhara had much simpler holds. But the first break point Kuzuhara faced in the second set couldn't have been more consequential, coming at ad-out serving at 4-5. But he forced an error from Butvilas, held and held again at 5-6 to force the tiebreaker. 

Down a mini-break at 2-1, Kuzuhara won the next two points on Butvilas's serve, and a rattled Butvilas began to make errors, most of the unforced variety.

In the third set, Kuzuhara got the precious service break on a sloppy game by Butvilas to go up 3-1, but Butvilas's next two holds, each taking less than a minute, signaled he was not done. Serving for the match at 5-3 Kuzuhara made two unforced errors to get in a hole and he was unable to get out of it. 

Butvilas lost the first two points serving at 4-5, won the next two, but Kuzuhara earned his first match point at 30-40. Butvilas saved it with a clean backhand winner, and on match point No. 2 forced an error from Kuzuhara on an aggressive forehand approach. But Butvilas's first serve deserted him when he really needed it on match point No. 3 and Kuzuhara hit a backhand return winner on a second serve to close out the match.

Kuzuhara, who has now reached at least the semifinals of his last four junior circuit tournaments, will play No. 3 seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay in a rematch of last month's Orange Bowl final. Vallejo, who won that match 6-2, 6-3, defeated No. 9 seed Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez of Mexico 7-5, 6-3. 

The other American boy in the quarterfinals, No. 13 seed Ozan Colak, fell just short of a memorable comeback in his 2-6, 7-6(0), 6-4 loss to No. 11 seed Kilian Feldbausch of Switzerland. 

After outplaying an error-prone Feldbausch in the first set, Colak kept pace in the second set as Feldbausch raised his level. With no breaks in the set, the tiebreaker figured to be just as close, but Colak couldn't find his earlier form and Feldbausch gave him nothing.  After dropping serve to open the third set, Colak was facing a tough comeback, and when he was unable to break back in the second game, when he had four chances, it looked bleak. But down 5-0, Feldbausch could not end it, nor was he able to get to match point serving for it at 5-2. With Colak serving at 3-5, Feldbausch had two match points, but Colak saved them both, and four more in the next game, with Feldbausch double faulting on two of them. Colak even had one break point, but on his seventh match point Feldbausch managed to finally end the two and a half hour struggle.

Kuzuhara is also through to the doubles semifinals, later tonight, with Coleman Wong of Hong Kong. Colak and Aidan Kim lost to Vallejo and Alex Michelsen, the other American in the doubles semifinals, 6-4, 6-3 in Wednesday's quarterfinals. 

Clervie Ngounoue, who is partnering with Diana Shnaider of Russia, is through to the girls doubles semifinals after they defeated Liv Hovde and Alexis Blokhina 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 in the quarterfinals.

Hovde is playing her singles quarterfinal against No. 6 seed Michaela Laki of Greece later tonight. I will update that result, as well as the doubles scores, here tomorrow.

Hovde joins Kuzuhara in the semifinals after defeating Laki 6-4, 6-0. After an exchange of breaks to open the match, Hovde jumped out to a 4-1 lead and served for the set at 5-2. She was broken, but was able to close it out on her second opportunity, serving at 5-4. Laki had taken a medical timeout at 4-1, and returned to play with her left thigh heavily taped, but she removed the tape at her next opportunity.  In the second set, the first four games were all close, but Hovde, who was getting great depth on her shots, won the important points, and once up 4-0, cruised to victory.

Hovde will play top seed and ITF junior No. 1 Petra Marcinko of Croatia, who beat unseeded Lola Radivojevic of Serbia 7-5, 6-2. The other girls semifinal will feature No. 8 seed Sofia Costoulas of Belgium and unseeded Australian Charlotte Kempenaers-Pocz.

The other boys singles semifinal will be between Feldbausch and No. 4 seed Jakub Mensik.

An American boy will win the Australian Open doubles title, with Kuzuhara and Michelsen opposing each other in the final. Michelsen and Vallejo defeated Tanapatt Nirundorn of Thailand and Jaden Weekes of Canada 6-2, 5-7, 10-5 in the semifinals, while Kuzuhara and Wong beat Feldbausch and Gabriel Debru of France 6-4, 6-4.

Top seeds Ngounoue and Shnaider are through to the girls final after defeating Kempenaers-Pocz and Taylah Preston 7-5, 7-6(5). They will play unseeded Kayla Cross and Victoria Mboko of Canada, who defeated No. 2 seeds Marcinko and Johanne Svendsen of Denmark 7-6(6), 2-6, 10-7.

Six Americans moved into the round of 16 at Les Petits As today, with Keaton Hance, Sebastian Bielen, Jack Kennedy[8] and Carel Ngounoue[10] making up a quarter of those advancing with wins today. No. 16 seed Sydney Jara and wild card Capucine Jauffret are the Americans in the girls draw.

Kennedy came back for a 6-7(1), 6-2, 6-1 victory over qualifier Maximilian Heidlmair of Austria; Ngounoue defeated Ziga Sesko of Slovenia 6-4, 6-2; Bielen outlasted Lucas Bazin of France 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(2) and Hance beat Antonin Witz of France 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. Three of the four American boys remaining are in the bottom half; Ngououe and Bielen will face each other in the quarterfinals if they both win Thursday.

No. 16 seed Ford McCollum lost to Diego Dedura Palomero of Germany 6-0, 6-4 and Marcella Roversi was beaten by No. 10 seed Ada Kumru of Turkey 6-2, 7-5.

Jara defeated Eleejah Inisan of France 6-1, 6-0, and will play top seed Alena Kovackova of the Czech Republic Thursday. Jara has lost only two games in her first two matches. Jauffret defeated qualifier Julie Pastikova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2 and will play No. 5 seed Polina Kuharenko of Belarus in the round of 16.

Jauffrey and Julieta Pareja advanced to the quarterfinals in doubles with a 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 10-5 win over Ophelle Boullay of France and Lilli Tagger of Austria.

Live streaming is here. Live scoring is here.

The latest coaches poll is out, with the Tennessee men and Texas women maintaining their places at the top of the rankings. The big drops were the Pepperdine women, who went from 2 to 7 after a home loss to Cal, and the Texas men, who went from 5 to 9 after a loss to Arizona. The list of the Top 25 can be found by click on the heading.

Men's Division I Top 10 January 26 (previous week's ranking):

1. Tennessee (1)
2. Baylor (2)
3. Florida (T-3)
4. TCU (T-3)
5. Ohio State (6)
6. Virginia (T-7)
7. Georgia (T-7)
8. Southern California (9)
9. Texas (5)
10. Wake Forest (10)

Women's Division I Top 10 January 26 

1. Texas (1)
2. North Carolina (3)
3. Georgia (4)
T4. UCLA (5)
T4. California (9)
6. Duke (6)
7. Pepperdine (2)
8. NC State (8)
9. Virginia (7)
10. Central Florida (11)